Life is full of change, so why shouldn’t our goals be flexible too? Sometimes we think a goal has to planned and set, no changing. But that doesn’t make sense or work very well for people. Let’s think about when it’s okay to modify or change a goal.
I’d like to begin with a family experience. Both of my sons wanted to try ice skating a few years ago. So I signed them up for beginner lessons. How did it go? From the beginning it was a bust.
Both boys were signed up for two different classes. One was a beginning class for any age; the other was a “Snowplow Sam” class for the little wanna-be skaters. So I signed my teen up for the first class and my preschooler for the second one. The night of the first lesson, we arrived early to get skates on and be ready to meet instructors. My boys had never even tried on ice skates before, stood on them, or attempted to skate two millimeters on ice. So this was a brand new experience for them, and it’s been almost 20 years since I’ve skated. On top of inexperience, the atmosphere at the indoor rink was chaotic, with probably 100 newbies to somewhat advanced skaters waiting to meet a limited number of new instructors.
Once teachers met students and took roll, everyone seemed to enter the rink at once, with the newbies struggling at the entrance. I had quickly warned my oldest son’s teacher to please guide him onto the ice. I didn’t explain that he has high-functioning autism; I just said he has some gross-motor delays. He made it maybe two inches onto the ice and clung to her like a cat afraid of touching water. She was sympathetic for about two seconds, then guided him to the rail, and left him there while she caught up with her other students. I think there were six or seven. Then she came back, attempted some one-on-one instruction, then quickly passed him off to the same teacher my preschooler had. So my teenager became the fifth student of his little brother’s class. I knew we were doomed.
Little Bro floundered much like his older brother on the ice, though Big Bro had been given an upturned bucket at this point to hold onto while he pushed/slid it inch by inch. The teacher of this class tried to help everyone, but none of the littles (five with Big Bro) could stay upright for more than 10 seconds.
I was proud of Big Bro for making the most of his 30-minute (almost an eternity) class, though he fell hard several times and injured his wrist in doing so. I had attempted to rescue him and his ego, but teachers wouldn’t let me enter the rink due to liability reasons. Little Bro didn’t seem to mind being on his pull-up-padded behind as much. So “in the end” (you decide if pun is intended), he decided to stick with the twice-weekly skating lessons.
A Change in Goals Can Be the Right Thing
For Big Bro, we had a good talk about what decisions he might make of the experience. He definitely wanted out. I told him that was fine, but we needed to talk about why that decision was ok in this instance. Here’s a short list of some questions we talked about:
- Is this goal essential?
- Is this goal just for fun?
- Could I modify this goal and still be successful?
- How long do we try a new goal that turns out to be hard?
- Is it worth the effort?
- In a few years will I regret not completing this goal?
It turned out to be a really good discussion. Together, we decided it’s okay if he doesn’t want to skate. It’s not a vital, important skill. Then he decided he does want to try again, just not in a skating class. So Mom and Dad will take the family during public skate time and rent walkers. He loved this idea, to try skating at his own speed, with adaptive equipment and us alongside. (Actually, I may have to lean on the walker as much as he does, but at least it will look like I’m just helping my kid, right?) We also talked about why some goals are ok to quit or modify. Many things are hard for Big Bro to do, and there are a lot of things he can’t quit. He has to keep trying to be a good student and to learn much-needed life skills. But quitting skating lessons and modifying his goal to a few fun outings with the aid of a walker is just fine. And if he tries the walker and still hates skating, then at least he tried and can cross the activity entirely off his list of things that might be fun.
Parents, would you have handled this situation differently? Have you experienced something similar?